Creed II, directed by Steven Caple Jr., once again handles its character and the legacy of the franchise beautifully. It drew me in, in ways I never expected, and it affected me emotionally in ways I knew it would but still found to be extremely effective. Now, the film doesn’t always pace itself well, and it does fall to the mat in some places, but this is a worthy sequel to a film that I adored, and I’m very excited to talk about. Anyway, let’s dispense with the introduction and get on with the review.
Adonis Creed – played by Michael B. Jordan – readies for the most difficult fight of his life against Viktor Drago – played by Florian Munteanu – the son of Ivan Drago – played by Dolph Lundgren – the man who infamously killed his father, Apollo Creed – played by Carl Weathers. Outside of the ring though, things are just as hard, as Adonis not only has a baby on the way with Bianca – played by Tessa Thompson – but his relationship with Rocky – played by Sylvester Stallone – is strained, and Adonis himself is in a place where mentally, he’s not doing well. A lot has to be overcome, and nothing will be easy, but legacy plays its part in guiding everyone.
When it comes to Creed II, it’s the beautifully handled characters that had me so transfixed by it. It was what had me so in love with the first film; the way it handled the legacy of Rocky so well, while also introducing and handling the new direction for the franchise. In Creed II, it takes what was done so well in the first film and continues to carry that torch; it evolves the situation for the characters we love, in ways that draw us closer to them. But what it also did was bring in other characters and much like the original; both handle the old with grace and dignity, while also expanding on it with new elements – new characters – that build on what came before and highlight that this franchise has much more to it, if it so desires to continue.
Interestingly, the area of this film I’m most eager to explore in some depth first, is its antagonists: Ivan and Viktor Drago. What I first want to say is that referring to them as the antagonists would be unfair, as even though they don’t have the same screen time as the main characters, the handling of them, and the story it tells of them, was one of the most heartbreakingly powerful elements of the film for me.
To see the once great, Ivan Drago feel so abandoned and feel such a failure was something that greatly humanised a character who was once nothing more than a boxing machine who seemed unbeatable. But just like Rocky, he’s an old man who feels all the pains from his career, but unlike Rocky, he’s still chasing the wins in the ring – not his wins – but the wins of his son, Viktor Drago.
Viktor was a character whom I was wholly feared and also truly sympathised for. Seeing him in the ring, he was a terrifying force. How quickly he moved, how hard he hit and how infallible to pain he seemed to be, made him a force that was terrifyingly exciting to watch. When he and Adonis first got into the ring together, I felt only fear for the punishment he was undoubtedly about to unleash on Adonis. But outside the ring, it was the sadness in his eyes that drew me into caring about for him. There was a loneliness in him and almost a boy-like sadness that made him go from a brutish boxing beast, to a damaged fearful boy. It was these aspects to both characters why I stopped seeing them as the antagonists of the film, and instead a father and son who were just as much like their counterparts (Rocky and Adonis) as they were like them – only the paths they took were differently paved.
And it’s here that I have to give over a significant amount of praise to both, Dolph Lundgren and Florian Munteanu, who both brilliantly and poignantly bring these aspects to life in their characters. It was wonderful to see Lundgren return to a character he was so famous for, and bring whole new dimensions to him; and for his performance to be so richly giving for the character. And it was also incredible to watch a first-time performance from Munteanu be so visually captivating. It’s a performance of few words and instead one of pure emotion. So much comes from the subtle looks he makes, and it’s all so clear to read. Munteanu, more than anyone else should be extremely proud of the performance he gives in this film, and it has me very excited to see what else he might do in the world of acting.
Across the ring from those two incredibly giving characters is yet another set of characters with so much to offer – I felt spoiled by all the charactery goodness on offer in Creed II. What you get from Adonis, Rocky and Bianca is a great evolution of the characters we now know pretty well. Adonis and Bianca’s relationship was one of my favourite aspects of the first Creed film, and so to see it develop further in this one and be done so well, was once again another standout element of this film.
What makes it so engaging, I think, is the chemistry between Tessa Thompson and Michael B. Jordan. The two of them together feels so natural, and watching them tackle things as an even more connected unit made the struggles all the more involving – especially when Adonis is retreating inside himself after his first bout with Viktor. In terms of these two characters, Creed II gave me exactly what I wanted (needed) and that was a greater development and exploration of the two characters – both as individuals and as a couple.
And the same can be said for the bond between Rocky and Adonis. Again, they were an absolute standout element of the first film; the two of them had some of the most powerful scenes in the first Creed film. Now, I wouldn’t say their time together is as strong, but what it was, was a wonderfully moving conclusion to their time together.
Which is something this film does beautifully; it handled the legacy of the Rocky franchise with poise and grace. This is no longer Rocky’s story, this is Adonis’ story, and the way in which they went about the passing of the metaphorical torch was a moment that I found to be so powerfully moving. Rocky was given a send off that felt right for the character, and Adonis was handed the reigns in a way that completed an arc for the character that was long in the making and so fulfilling to watch. This is a franchise that still has a lot left to give, and I’m fully there to see it all.
Creed II was a film that I was so excited for – anytime a trailer played for it, I would get giddy with excitement – I was so eager to see more of these characters I loved, and I was so eager to see them develop and grow even more, and Creed II gave me that and more. It was a film I always had faith in – even with the change in director – and it didn’t disappoint.
In fact, there was perhaps only one glaring issue with Creed II, and that was in its pacing. The film can at times feel like it’s losing steam. There’s a substantial portion in the middle of the film where it drags a little, and it certainly took some of the momentum out of the film, which is a shame, because the first film was one with such a great rhythm to it. Things flowed, and they were always supported by a score that had you effortlessly moving along with it. That brilliant score is back, thanks to more complimentary scoring by Ludwig Göransson, but it does seem that somewhere in the script or with Steven Caple Jr’s directing that the same style of rhythm and pace was unable to be matched. It didn’t end up being an issue that diminished the effect of the film, but I can see it being an issue that loses the attention of some audience goers at times.
But Creed II is still a film that holds onto what made the first one so great and gives you more of it; whether it’s the great characters and performances, the use of music, or the boxing matches themselves, which have a power and ferocity to them that makes them both a joy and a worry to watch. And the last fight in particular was such an interesting one to experience because of the handling of the characters over the course of the film. I cared so much for everyone in and around the ring, and the film had done such a good job of developing them into individuals with such depth, that when the fight was nearing its end, I genuinely wanted both fighters to win, and knowing that wouldn’t be the case made the outcome all the more emotional.
And that’s what my time with Creed II was: emotional. This film didn’t have the same overwhelming effect on me that the first one did – I was a blubbering mess by the end of Creed – but this film still got to me, and it still caused a well of emotions to fill-up within me.
I absolutely recommend, Creed II. This film does not disappoint. It’s very much worth your time and your money. Go see it, go support it, and let’s make sure the makers of this film know how much we love it!
Please let me know what you thought of Creed II and my review of it, by leaving your opinions, etc in the comments section down below. If you like my ramblings, then please consider following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – I have an exciting new project I’m working on (that’s movie based) and my Twitter will soon have all the juicy details. I’ll bring things to a close by offering you my thanks. Thank you to you for coming to my little side of the internet and taking the time to read my silly ramblings; it means so much to me! Anyway, have a fantastic day, and thank you.